Saints quotebook: Dennis Allen (December 21, 2018)

Defensive coordinator talks about challenges presented by Steelers offense

Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen

Conference Call With New Orleans Media

Friday, December 21, 2018

What are some of the biggest challenges the Steelers’ offense present, particularly with the two receivers that everybody talks about with JuJu (Smith-Schuster) and AB (Antonio Brown)?

“I think they've got a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. I think I would start up front. I think they do a really good job up front, both in the run and the pass- game. They do a really good job of protecting for Ben (Roethlisberger). I think their receivers, obviously, are very explosive. I think different types of receivers they have – JuJu Smith-Schuster, who's a little bit of a bigger more physical type of receiver. He’s got a big catch radius and I think he does a really good job. Antonio Brown, not quite as big of a receiver but yet, very fast, shifty, quick. And I think all of them do a really good job of staying alive through the down, and so when it's not there early and Ben does a good job of maneuvering in the pocket and buying a little bit of extra time. They do a really good job of uncovering and getting some of those off- schedule plays down the field which presents a challenge. And then look, I think they've got a couple of tight ends that are pretty good in the passing game and have a good rapport with Ben. So there's a lot of weapons there and a lot of guys that you have to try to defend.”

How do they compare to some of the teams you’ve faced already this year with weapons like that? I mean you look at Julio (Jones) in Atlanta.

“I don't know how they would compare in terms of those other teams. Obviously, they do have a lot of weapons. They're a very explosive offense. They create a lot of challenges in terms of coverage, as well as trying to get pressure on the quarterback. So certainly, they're one of the better offenses in the league.”

Looking specifically at their offensive line, I think they’ve got three Pro Bowlers on that unit. Can you see that on the film when you're watching those guys?

“Absolutely. Like I said before, I think it is one of the better offensive lines in the league. I think they are coached extremely well. You do not see a lot of miscues by them. They generally have the proper targets both in the run-game and the passing game. So when you're playing against offenses like this, that have the explosive weapons on offense, and they have a quarterback like Ben (Roethlisberger), and they are able to do both block and a run game and do a good job in protection. I think that really makes it a difficult challenge.”

Is that why they've been able to just plug in running backs and everybody's just doing so well, just because of the guys up front?

“Well, certainly I think that's part of it. I think most of the most of the really good offenses that you see in this league, I think there's probably a combination of a good quarterback and a good offensive line. I think that's where it all starts.”

When you were looking to bring Demario (Davis) in, what made you guys think he would fit in the position that you all are playing him in, even though that wasn't really what he was doing beforehand?

“Well number one, I’d say when he first came into the league, he did play a version of what we are asking him to play. They had David Harris there at the Jets initially (playing on the inside). David was the Mike, Demario took over as the Will. I think what you're really looking for is you are looking for a skillset, and a player, and the position he plays at the Will linebacker is a playmaking position. You’re looking for a fast, athletic type of linebacker that has the ability to cover in space. He has the ability to cover running backs and tight ends, and also the ability to do some things in terms of pressure. So we felt like he had the athletic skillset. When we had an opportunity to visit with him, we realized that he had an intelligence level. We knew he was our type of guy. We knew that he was a team football player and he's really fit in nicely to what we've been trying to do with him.”

We see some of the splash plays, the sacks, and sideline-to-sideline type plays, but are there some unseen things with him that are kind of playing a role?

“I think certainly the physicality in the run game has been a really good presence for us this season. I think you don't always notice some of these interior runs that he's able to set up. I think he's big, he's strong, he can come downhill, he can attack the line of scrimmage and attack these offensive linemen and shed blocks and be able to get off blocks and make tackles inside. So, certainly, everybody sees the plays that are made out (in) space but when you really get down and you watch the game tape you see a lot of really good things you know from an interior presence in the run game.”

What has he brought to the locker room and the film room?

“He's a guy that loves football. He is football 24/7. He's a team player and certainly brings an energy level to our football team that that's contagious. And so it's just been a really good addition for us.”

Does Cam Jordan’s personality bring anything? Does that kind of help things off the field with guys?

“Certainly. Cam's got a unique personality. He's pretty loose. (A) very confident person, very confident player. I think that's a little bit contagious to our football team. I think our guys, really all of them, they understand they come they come to work every day. They enjoy playing football. They have fun out here and that's what's really… It's been pleasurable for me to be a part of because they're having fun playing the game, but yet they understand when it's time to go to work and they work and do the things that we have to do to get ready for a ballgame each week.”

Does Cam’s personality take some getting used to as a coach?

“When you when you do the job that we do as coaches here, you deal with a lot of different personalities and each one of them is different. I think that's what's unique about the game of football is that you get 53 guys (on the main roster), 10 on the practice squad, and so you're dealing with 63 guys that come from all kinds of different backgrounds whether it be economic backgrounds or ethnic backgrounds or religious backgrounds and you get all these guys to come together as a football team and become really one big family. I can't say enough good things about the locker room that we have down there in and the way our guys come to work every day and continue to try to get better.”

You talked about backgrounds, David Onyemata obviously had an unusual football background coming into the league. Can you talk about what you saw from a guy who hadn’t been able to play at a high level of competition coming in and how he's evolved from what you first saw?

“Bill Johnson at the time was our defensive line coach. He actually went up to Manitoba Canada and scouted David (Onyemata) and came back and just fell in love with the kid. The number one thing you've got to identify is does the player have the skill set to do the things that you're going to ask him to do which David obviously did and then the one thing that we realized in spending time with him is he actually is a very quick learner. Even though he didn't have a lot of experience at play in the position, he had the skill set to play and he had the mental capacity and the mental ability to learn. He just had to see it once or twice and then he had it. So that's why I think now in his third year you're really beginning to see his growth as a player because he does have a little bit of experience now to fall back on and understand what offenses are trying to do and how they're trying to attack him and so he understands how to combat that.”

When you get a player who's not from a so-called Power 5 conference, is there any uncertainty about whether the numbers you see or even what you see on film is quite as credible and will translate the way it might from one of those schools?

“I would say this, when you're talking about the draft or whatever the case may be and you're bringing in a guy, you don't ever there's always a little bit uncertain because you never really know exactly what you have until you get him in your building and get an opportunity to work with him so. I would say there's probably a little bit more uncertainty with players that don't come from some of these Power 5 conference teams. Again, you are really looking for does a guy have the physical ability to play? Can he learn and then not only can he learn the playbook, but does he have some functional intelligence where he can apply the things that we're trying to teach him and so those are all the things that you're trying to figure out before you bring anybody into the building.”

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